Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Federal High Court, Abuja for ‘failing’ to prosecute those suspected of buying votes and bribing during the recently concluded Ekiti State governorship election.
The group said reports abound of open vote buying and electoral bribery in several polling units, including bargaining prices for ballots and payments in uncompleted buildings, while the gubernatorial contest lasted.
In the suit, numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/1189/2022 and filed at the weekend, SERAP is seeking an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to seek and obtain detailed information about reports of vote buying by the three leading political parties in the 2022 Ekiti State governorship election.
It is also requesting an order of mandamus to direct and compel the electoral umpire to promptly and effectively prosecute those arrested and bring to justice anyone, who sponsored, aided and abetted them.
The rights body is arguing that vote buying “is a threat to fair and representative elections, adding: “Vote-buying amounts to undue influence and improper electoral influence.”
The organisation, in the case filed its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, noted held that wealthy candidates and their sponsors ought not to be allowed to profit from their crimes.
Arresting and prosecuting vote buyers, it said, would end widespread impunity ahead of the February 2023 general elections.
SERAP continued: “Vote buying encourages poor governance and weakens citizens’ capacity to hold their ‘elected officials’ accountable for their actions.
“Vote buying undermines the ability of INEC to discharge its responsibilities under Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Paragraph 15(a) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022.
“Corruption of the ballot box intrudes on the freedom of Nigerian voters to make up their minds. Vote buying and other forms of electoral corruption freeze out the less wealthy candidates and parties.
“When political candidates or their sponsors decide to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such candidates and sponsors will show disregard for democratic rules and disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.”
The group stressed that preventing and combating vote buying and electoral bribery would advance the people’s right to vote and participate in their own government, besides boosting the capacity of INEC to effectively discharge its constitutional and statutory mandates. No date has, however, been fixed for hearing of the suit.